On the Road to Success

Local musician Des Larson is makling his mark in the music scene, both locally and further afield

Des Larson’s emotional connection with the audience when he is performing is what sets him apart from other musicians—he doesn’t just play for his audience, <a href=

prosthetic he captures and engages them. “That’s why I make music—to make people feel something, to create moments,” he says. Photo by Boomer Jerritt” src=”×415.jpg” width=”602″ height=”415″ /> Des Larson’s emotional connection with the audience when he is performing is what sets him apart from other musicians—he doesn’t just play for his audience, he captures and engages them. “That’s why I make music—to make people feel something, to create moments,” he says. Photo by Boomer Jerritt

The Comox Valley is ripe with musical talent. It seems wherever you go these days, coffee shops, markets, festivals, even street corners—we are surrounded by musicians who know their craft. Des Larson is one of the many talented musicians who call the Comox Valley their home, but there is something about Larson that makes him stand out from his peers.

According to those in the know, Larson is the perfect storm of looks, sound, and talent. But what makes Larson truly unique is his natural ability to connect with his audience. As a result, he has captured the eye and ear of some pretty big names in the music industry—and with their help, he is about to release his first studio album.

Although only 23, Larson has been a musician for a long time. “It seems I’ve been making music all my life,” he says. “When I was a kid my mom would bring me to church every week where she would expect me to sing with everyone else. It wasn’t enough for me to just mouth the words, though, she wanted to actually hear me singing, really belting it out—and if she didn’t, she’d give me a little nudge. It was a good thing though. I became comfortable with the sound of my own voice.”

Though it took some nudges to get Larson started, eventually he couldn’t stop singing. “I could entertain people from a young age—it was comfortable for me,” Larson says. “All my life people have seen something in me, something that can’t be contained. It’s a joy.”

That natural joy comes through in the music Larson creates—and it’s contagious.

Larson is a natural entertainer, and the ease he projects on stage makes his music even more enjoyable. His song lyrics resonate with emotions that the audience can understand. And the music, well it’s just amazing. On the stage may be just Larson and his guitar, but he has such a unique and multilayered way of playing the instrument that it sounds like he has an entire band behind him.

Larson’s music style is hard to pin down. Although he can play just about any genre of music, his overriding style can be compared to the Dave Mathews Band, the Boom Booms, Current Swell, John Mayer, and Jason Mraz. It’s almost impossible to hear Larson and not hear something you like. From gentle ballads and all out rock, to the oldies but goodies, Larson can pull it off—and well.

Though Larson is clearly talented, it’s his emotional connection with the audience that sets him apart. Larson doesn’t just play for his audience, he captures and engages them. “That’s why I make music—to make people feel something, to create moments,” he says. “It was at church that I learned how music is such a powerful tool. I guess it could be called a manipulation tool—it can make people feel things.  For example, the preacher, he was eloquent and all, but when the organ started to play behind him while he was speaking, that’s when his words would begin to impact me.  I forgot about that until recently, but now I want to help people to feel something—something positive.”

des larson 2

Larson is well known in the Comox Valley. Ask around, and most people will say they’ve heard of him. “I grew up here, even graduated from Highland,” he says. “However, I’ve also spent a good deal of time in Victoria and Vancouver. I’m a city boy, but just a small town community guy, really. Actually, I consider myself sort of a hybrid. That being said, no matter where I go, I consider the Valley my community. This is where I got my start; this is where my biggest fans are.”

That fan base is growing every day. In fact, Larson is popular with people of all ages. It’s not uncommon to see teenagers at a Des Larson concert, and right next to them will be parents, and maybe even the grandparents. “It’s interesting to have such a wide fan base,” he says. “In fact, I’d really like to make a kid’s album someday—something that would appeal to both the kids and to the parents as well. Actually, that’s a goal of mine—to someday win a Juno for best kid’s album.”

Though he’s establishing some long term goals, his short term goal is to finish the album he’s currently working on. The eight song CD, due to be released this year, was recorded in the Valley at The Cave Recording Studio. “I’d say this album will reflect a West Coast vibe with urban appeal,” explains Larson. “But most of all, this album is completely from my heart. It’s an album about a personal journey. You see, I lost my way, I made mistakes and I lost a good friend. But now I’ve found myself again, and that’s what this album is about—getting back on track after you’ve lost your way.”

Larson has been fortunate enough to find some experienced musicians to help him reach his immediate goals, as well as his long term career goals. Phil Comparelli, the former guitarist and vocalist for 54/40, is co-producing the album.

“Working with Comparelli, it’s a perfect match because I wanted this album to be produced by someone who hasn’t produced an album before. As a result, the album is a real collaboration, there is a lot of give and take,” Larson says. “And the experience has been amazing too. I’ve developed a brotherly bond with Comparelli. He’s helping me get my career going, but I’m learning so much more from him. I’m learning from his life experiences—the good and the bad, the touring lifestyle. It’s an honor to work with him. I’m grateful and I’m humbled.”

The feelings are mutual. “I remember the first time I saw Des perform. I remember thinking, ‘Holy crap, this guy’s got it!’ He’s handsome, good with the crowd, his voice is amazing and his songs are very cool. Des? He’s a runaway train. It’s very exciting to be a part of this process, but I believe he would still do it even without my help. He’s unstoppable, and this is just the beginning of an amazing career.”

Producing the album is Jamey Koch, who’s famous for mixing and producing artists such as DOA and Michael Buble. “Jamey was fascinated with my sound when he heard me. He said my sound was unique—he described it as Justin Timberlake goes camping,” recalls Larson with a laugh.

Larson is also excited about his recent meeting with Brian Howes, a songwriter and Juno award-winning producer who’s worked with big name bands such as Nickelback, Hedley, Hinder and Daughtry. Howes, originally from the Comox Valley, was in town this past November to accept his induction into the Comox Valley Walk of Achievement. While Howes was visiting he happened to hear Larson perform. Afterward, the two had a conversation where Howes offered to record Larson at his studio down in LA.

“It’s pretty gratifying to be noticed by people such as Brian Howes,” Larson says. “It’s great to have people appreciate your talent—especially people who have seen a lot of it.”

So far things are looking good for CD sales, and Larson and his team haven’t even finished the album yet. “I’ve pre-sold quite a few CDs already,” he says. “I also recently completed an Indiegogo campaign, which was hugely successful even though we didn’t reach our goal. It was a great way to spread the word about our project and to allow others to help us along the way. It also made me believe in myself—that I really did have something to offer and that people, my community and even strangers, they have my back.”

Larson is commonly associated with the Des Larson Trio, but Larson explains that this CD is a solo album. “It seems that all my life I’ve been in a band, but this is my own project—this album is too personal to be done with a band,” he says.

Though a solo album, Larson asserts that he wasn’t able to complete the project without some musical help from his friends.

“I’ve worked with some amazing session musicians to make this album. They’re also great friends of mine and very talented. Robin Banks is the bass player. He’s a sly, cool cat, and you can quote that because it’s corny, but it fits.

“Then there’s John Hinds on drums. He’s more like what you’d call a quiet riot—he’s a bit on the quiet side, but he’s a genius too.  They’ve both helped with the composing of the songs.  Without them the album would lose a lot of the grit.  I guess you could say they bring the camp,” says Larson. “Seriously, though, their musicianship is far beyond my own. It’s an honor to work with them.”

Larson is becoming a hit internationally, as he recently heard that his song Beautiful has been picked up by a label in Mexico after it was remade into a Spanish version. “The translated version of Beautiful is doing quite well,” he says. “It’s cool to know my song was liked so much that another artist decided to cover it, and that now it’s been picked up by a label.”

He smiles. “It also helps that I get royalty cheques for that too!”

Life is obviously busy for Larson these days. He’s heading out of town for various gigs, such as Song&Surf in Port Renfrew in February. He is also heading to Los Angeles to record with Brian Howes. Closer to home, he’ll be performing at the Waverly Hotel in Cumberland in March. “It’s true that life is busy,” he says. “I’ve got my fingers in about 80 things right now, but for the most part, the CD is still my major focus.”

The CD is just one step toward his ultimate goal, though—to build a career in music. “Things are really starting to happen and it’s pretty exciting, but actually, I’m holding back a little,” he says. “I want to do this thing right. I’m trying to build a career—a lasting career where I can do what I was meant to do.”

You can see Des Larson’s music videos on YouTube and download his songs from iTunes.  For more information visit his Facebook page or go to